Title: Body Is Land
Medium: Deer hide, beads, cowrie shells, ashes, leather cording, acrylic enamel paint
I integrate several mediums to create a narrative. I engage in an autobiographical storytelling through a mapping exercise with implicit symbolic meaning from my chosen materials. Specifically, I have decided to bead a map of Toronto’s High Park onto a white acrylic paint skin that has been textured by ashes I have collected of sacred Indigenous medicines and medicinal herbs between the months of August 2016 to March 3rd 2017. These ashes include white sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, lavender flowers, rose buds, fennel, and catnip. The textures created by the ashes infer topographical qualities. The white paint can relate to ideas of purification, blankness, vastness, and snow. The ashes reiterate and contrast some of this imagery- the ritual act of spiritually cleansing oneself, however, residues and evidence remains of this act (the ash) and sullies the whiteness or smoothness of the paint. High Park beholds sacred sites for the Haudenosaunee including burial mounds and land-based cultural knowledge, however, these stories have been largely erased in our current day. I have chosen to bead a modern map of High Park with primary colours (that hold various meanings and additionally refer to colours used in urban maps, subway lines, etc). I incorporate cowrie shells, which historically have been used by many earlier cultures (as currency, wampum belt beads used for treaty agreements, ritualism, occult works, etc). The form of the shell visually can also represent the female archetype, fertility and the genitals.
With these symbols in mind, I map out locations in High Park that attempt to pin my trauma site. This trauma mapping revisits the moments when I directed detectives while in their police car to the location of a sexual assault that occurred in May 2015, and enter the space of fight/flight/fawn/freeze, a biological shock response. In those moments, I failed to guide them to the location in the dark, despite being there only moments earlier. Through the process of beading, I try to reclaim my relationship to the park, and reconcile with the land. The object acts performatively to emulate a PTSD treatment called exposure therapy that aims to help individuals reintegrate into society. Psychological changes happen in the brain post-traumatically that impact the visceral organs and stress responses. I’ve pursued research since 2015 about the body-mind-spirit relationship; namely, the connections I have found between internal communication pathways: excessive hormone production (cortisol) causing late onset adrenal fatigue, the route of the vagus nerve, the cerebrospinal relationship to emotional processing, the gut microbiome, and the endocrine system. The final product resembles a ceremonial object in which I document a rite of passage from a past experience.